A QUICK TRIP THROUGH ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE
Innovative and derivative, experimental and fun, loud as hell and mellow as heaven, these are the yin and yang worlds of Acid Mothers Temple. They constantly confound the expectations of even their most devoted fans, spawning new offshoots and projects with alarming regularity and creating a discography not even the most obsessed individual could ever own entirely (surely? Let me know if you can prove me wrong). Their often highly limited releases are put out by small independent record labels all over the world giving them a global following. It is an intimidating discography for the beginner. So, let us take you by the hand and guide you through some essential moments in their recording history.
This is split into 4 parts, the first 3 all being listed in chronological order:
list 1: this is all for studio albums by the main unit, Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O with an emphasis on the cornerstones of their live sets
list 2: this is for studio albums from all the other units and solo projects
list 3: this is for live albums, DVDs, singles and ultra-rarities
list 4: some other people select albums, because the other 3 lists are all just the opinion of one dude and what does that matter?
LIST 1: THE MOTHERSHIP & THE SETLIST
The main band is Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. They have regularly featured guests and members from the Acid Mothers collective on most recordings but the main core of the unit was a 5-piece with Cotton Casino on vocals and electronics but she left the life of heavy touring for family life. Since Cotton's departure, they've acted as a 4-piece with Higashi Hiroshi stepping up to take over the electronics whilst still lending some axe skills where needed. They've changed drummer a few times but have been with current sticksman Koji Shimura since 2006. Leading the vocal side of the group is bass-player Tsuyama Atsushi with the Makoto & Hiroshi lending in some backing vocals.
Here we will bring you ten highlights in the back catalogue of Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. with an emphasis on songs that often feature in their live sets:
1.self titled debut album on PSF - 1997
never too young to hear good music
The Tokyo label PSF has a long and illustrious history of bringing the world the Japanese underground. Named after their 1984 inaugral release, the album "Psychedelic Speed Freaks" by High Rise (a band that Koji Shimura used to drum for), PSF put out the first proper Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. album back in 1997, following on from a self-released tape the band had put out the same year.
It's a very crazy, very varied album that tries to squeeze in a lot of ideas into its running time but somehow manages to get away with it. There are hints here not just of where the band are heading but also some of the themes that Makoto would start to explore separately in more depth with his solo work. It still sounds fresh 14 years on and carries the first recorded version of the bands anthem "Pink Lady Lemonade", still an essential part of their live set to this day.
2."La Novia" on Eclipse Records - 2000
Occitania is a region that overlaps the South of France and North of Spain. Although you would not find it on a map today, it's dialect Occitan is still spoken by many in those areas and kept alive through their culture. "La Novia" is a veritable anthem of Occitanian music and Acid Mothers manage to somehow be respectful to it whilst also turning it into a 44 minute psychedelic folk rock freak-out epic replete with throat singing and some of Makoto's finest guitar heroics. The song is still a regular staple of their live sets to this day and seems to get better every time.
3."In C" on Eclipse Records - 2001
Where do you go from Occitanian folk? The inspired answer is to avant garde 60s masterpiece "In C" by Terry Riley. This famous piece of work is all played ecstatically in the key of C. AMT take to the task like ducks to water, knocking out a frentic drum beat and whipping up a frenetic psychedelic storm of C over the top of it. On the flipside of the vinyl, the band do their own hard rocking experiment "In E" and in addition, the CD also has the more experimental "In D". The trippy euphoria of "In C" has always worked brilliantly live and this is a classic album.
4. "Absolutely Freak Out (Zap Your Mind!!) on Static Caravan/Resonant - 2001
misty mountain ROCK
I was way too slow to get the original double red vinyl edition but, hey, the expanded and remastered double CD release contains way more music and frankly blows the roof off. It takes the eclecticism of the debut album, expands on it, ups the ante and also puts in moments of floor-crushing heaviness and sanity-snapping madness. It's not one for brief dips but requires you to make time for a full listen in one sitting for the full effect. Due to its length, that makes it a nice rare treat that will cure your stay-home Saturday night blues. Not really a source of much for the live setlists but if I'm DJing somewhere with a CD-player then it comes with me.
5."Univers Zen Out De Zero a Zero" on Fractal Records - 2002
There are a lot of different sides to the band and here on this record they are mainly flexing their heavy psychedelic rock muscles. The opening track "Electric Love Machine" and the closing “God Bless AMT” are both really wild rock outs but the major highlight is “Soleil de Cristal et Lune d’Argent”. This is Cotton Casino’s finest vocal hour with her delivering an urgent, freaked-out folk vocal while Makoto works bouzouki magic building the song up and up in intensity before wigging out into beautiful delirium. If you manage to pick up the rather rare bumper vinyl edition, you get this classic twice as there’s a bonus live disc in there. This one is not just one of the best Acid Mothers Temple songs of all time but for me one of the best songs of all time. The opening bars of it can be heard in my podcast intro and there is more of it in the roots of Was Ist Das mix I made, although you need to hear the full 22 minute album version to know the true joy.
6.”Magical Power From Mars” on Important Records – 2003
I took a 3d photo on my 3ds but could not work out how to embed it.
Originally a series of 3 very limited CD singles, this album compiles them all together with a bonus track. This one of their trippiest releases with the opening track “Ziggy Sitar Dust Raga“ being a pretty accurate description of it’s psychoactive contents. The other-worldly vibe of this album is worth the entrance fee alone but the fact that is has a spectacular lenticular 3d cover and a song on it called “Diamond Doggy Peggy” really is the icing on the cosmic space cake.
7.”The Penultimate Galatic Bordello Also The World You Made” on Dirter – 2004
round our way psychrock grows on trees
Now this is a hell of a space biscuit. This album has just four tracks……on four discs in a neat little box set. You see, each of these four songs is over an hour long! There's the epic rock out of "The Beautiful Blue Ecstasy (Have You Seen The Blue Sky?)", the cosmic John Barry of "The Seven Stigmata From Pussycat Nebula", the joyous, laugh-out loud freak out of "What's Your Name? " and the mysterious, ambient temple vibes of "The Holly Mountain In The Counter-Clock World". The price is pretty damn reasonable on this one, sold new at not much more than a normal album and even on the 2nd hand
market can still be picked up for about the same price as a new double LP – bargain universe!
8.”Minstrel In The Galaxy” on Riot Season – 2004
Begins like a sublime lullaby of cosmic proportions with Atsushi serenading the listener over the first track which segues seamlessly into the next one where a long slow build into deepest, wildest space ensues with a restrained but demonic course of guitar soloing from Makoto. The Afrirampo girls step in to do some very trippy, sexy vocals subtly woven into a mix as dense as a nebula cloud. Once it’s reached it’s maximum force, Atsushi cradles your blown mind with a reprise of his space serenade. I remember hearing this crescendo as I got my first glimpse of the Grand Canyon. Good combo.
9.”Nam Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo” on Ace Fu Records – 2007
2005 saw the arrival of Acid Mothers Temple & The Cosmic Inferno and a slowing down for the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. Luckily 2006 and 2007 were bumper years for the original mothership, now with the Cosmic Inferno’s Shimura Koji at the drum kit, and this was one of the highlights. No other band could blend Buddhism, humour, freak out rock n roll, space folk and acapella into one enormous album-length song.
10.”The Ripper At The Heavens Gates Of Dark” on Riot Season - 2011
Bringing us bang up to date is the bands latest album and, aptly, it’s their best in years. Opening with live favourite “Chinese Flying Saucer” with its massive Led Zep riffs and then going off into an epic exploration of deep space rock keyboard experiments. It is everything I love about AMT and an essential purchase. Check out full-length review here
LIST 2: OTHER PROJECTS
Whilst the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. has always been the highest visibility project, anyone who ever checked out a decent record shop will know there is a whole universe of side projects, spin offs and experimental solo albums. Often these are some of the most limited artefacts while others enjoy widespread distribution. Some may outwardly bear no connection to AMT until you delve into the sleeve notes or the internet. Here, from the more mysterious regions of their back catalogue are some very fine jewels:
1. Father Moo & The Black Sheep - Acid Mothers Temple 1998 / Swordfish 2002
The sleeve notes for this one say it far better than I ever could “Demonic scriptures of dubious eroticism and cultism, performed by the heretical guru Father Moo and his female disciples. Minimal acoustic works using just female chanting and drones." – does exactly what it says on the tin. It is like a very deep, very chilled fog of mystery and beauty. This is great album to stick on as you drift off to sleep.
2. Tsurubami "Tsukuyomi Ni" Riot Season 2003.
Tsurubami is one of the most extreme off-shoots of AMT. They are a trio with Hiroshi on bass, Makoto on guitar and drummer Nobuko Emi (she has played in such bands as Drop Pow and Seventh Seal but you’ll find her nowhere else in the AMT discography). The music is incredibly hard to categorise or even to describe. The songs are long, improvised and quite absolute in their waves of instrumental sound. The result can be discordant as oblivion but never descends into harsh noise. The musicians sound like they are lost in a meditative trance.
3. Gong "Acid Motherhood" on Mister E - 2004
Yes, that is a disturbing cover. Before there was Acid Mothers Gong there was….Gong. For the album “Acid Motherhood”, David Allen presented a new line up of Gong that mixed members of University of Errors with Kawabata Makoto and Cotton Casino. He incorporated them into the Gong mythology, immortalising Cotton as Super Cotton battling DJ Dodgy. The album has some very Gong tracks but the presence of Makoto is very strong at times. It includes the blissful folk glissando of “Bazuki Logix” which is worth the entrance price alone.
4. Kawabata Makoto "Your Voice from The Moon" on Vivo - 2005
Makoto’s solo albums each tend to focus on one instrument or style. This one seems to be some deep, heavy explorations of analogue electronics. Makoto conjures up the spirit of early Stockhausen and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop but rides in a full-octane pace. Perhaps one of Makoto’s most extreme solo recordings.
5. Acid Mothers Temple & The Cosmic Inferno – “IAO Chant From The Cosmic Inferno” on Ace Fu Records - 2005
In 2005, a new band were formed, the Cosmic Inferno. This unit sees Tabata Mitsuru (previously of Zeni Geva and, for their early days, The Boredoms) taking over the bass playing & lead vocals role from Atsushi and the addition of an extra drummer, Shimura Koji (who would take over the role of sole drummer in the UFO a year later). Kawabata Makoto & Higashi Hiroshi remained in their roles. This particular album, from their first flush of releases, is just one 51 minute track “OM riff from the cosmic inferno” which is based around Steve Hillage’s famous OM riff from the Gong song “Master Builder”. The band take this legendary riff and ride it storming into the cosmic inferno with some breath-taking breakdowns of deep chanting. It might sound hippy-dippy but the band make it rock to the infinite. I unleashed this once on a very stoned Chemical Brothers fan and he ended the evening in hospital with a panic attack. Just say no.
6.Acid Mothers Temple & The Cosmic Inferno – “Journey Into The Cosmic Inferno” on Very Friendly - 2008
2008 saw the return of the Cosmic Inferno and this time occupying the second drum kit next to Koji was none other than Pika of Afrirampo. Pika not just being a formidable drummer but also a singer, songwriter and formidable stage presence took the Cosmic Inferno to a whole new level. Everything this new line-up has released has been essential but to highlight one album then it would have to be this one. Pika and Makoto both get to explore their folksier sides with Pika sharing lead vocals with Mitsuru but the real highlight is the enormous galactic Sabbath roar of “Master of the Cosmic Inferno” an absolute bulldozer of a song. OWL!
7. Kawabata Makoto "Kiss Me Goodbye" on Apollolaan Recordings - 2008
A very limited run of 80, hand made CDR from the excellent label Apollolaan. Similar in style to Makoto’s earlier “Jellyfish Rising” release but overtaking it. It is simply two long extended guitar pieces that see Makoto creating a beautiful, reverberating river of notes. While the playing is obviously very dextrous & creative, for me it’s all about the result not the technical prowess and the result is gentle, spellbinding magic.
8.Miminokoto “Chofu, Ekoda, Koenji: Live In & Around Tokyo”on Plunk’s Plan - 2010
Before joining AMT in 2005, drummer Koji was playing in psychedelic rock trio Miminokoto (among other bands, such as Makoto's power unit Mainliner). After a three year break, he resumed Miminokoto with both a new bass player and a new frontman. Stepping up to take over the microphone and guitar duties was Suzuki Junzo who as well as having his own solo career, had played in Overhang Party, formed a duo called 20 Guilders with Tabata Mitsuru (see Cosmic Inferno) and also often accompanies AMT on the road and looks after their shopzone. Got all that? Hope so, there’ll be a test on this later. Anyway, the new Miminokoto recently put out a great new studio album on Important Records but this killer live album captures something intimate and powerful. You could say they play a sort of deep, dark but melodic and soulful cosmic blues. Junzo’s solo albums also come highly recommended. As for Miminokoto’s old frontman, Kawagachi Masami, he now has a band called New Rock Syndicate who are also worth investigating. We go more in-depth on this release HERE
9. Acid Mothers Temple SWR & Umezu Kazutoki “Sax & The City” on Magaibutsu - 2011
The SWR is a very different kettle of fish. If you were doing the blindfold test, you probably would not recognise it as being AMT. They are a trio consisting of regulars Kawabata Makoto and Atsushi Tsuyama with singing drummer and sampler operator Tatsuya Yoshida of Ruins. The results sound like frenzied, speed-soaked improvisations and, in truth, are closer to the Ruins sound than that of AMT. They did two albums as a trio but this year unleashed this monster where sax player Umezu Kazutoki joins the session with some unholy saxophone playing that can disembowel a square at 900 yards. It is, of course, a total fucking blast. We get more in-depth (and blow up the artwork to a much larger size!) over HERE
10.Mani Neumeier & Makoto Kawabata "Samurai Blues" on Bureau B - 2011
Acid Mothers Guru Guru have toured the US and Australia, though never visited these shores, and put out two albums now. However, for me personally, they pale in comparison to the sheer rowdy wildness of this album that simply pits the two bands main men against each other. The results are very original and distinctive, not to mention loud with a joyous, noisy exuberance. It makes me grin to hear the two of them just letting rip.We got more in-depth over HERE
LIST 3 – A CABINET OF CURIOSITIES
Of course, so far this has just been a list of recommended studio albums but there’s more to AMT than that....
1.Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. “Born To Be Wild In The USA” on Wabana Ore Limited - 2002
early copies came with a free Yeti
One thing we have not mentioned until now are the bands live albums. The band are obsessive record collectors and one thing that is very clear is that they prefer the raw, unchanged sound of bootleg LPs over the polished, overdubbed, studio mixed official live albums. This LP, their second live album, lives up to it's title, being a total blast. It capture a very different set-list to what you would hear at their shows these days and perfectly reflects the bootleg aesthetic by mimicking the artwork of a classic American bootleg LP. In fact, if you were looking for a "greatest hits" style compilation album for the band, your best choice would be one of their live albums.
2 Acid Mothers Temple Family “Do Whatever You Want, Don’t Do Whatever You Don’t Want!” Earworm 2002
An epic 3 CD compilation that nicely summed up the entire AMT scene….as it stood in 2002! Disc 1 is given over to one long epic new version of their anthem “Pink Lady Lemonade”. Disc 2 is a really varied compilation of related bands. There is Makoto & Atsushis fun folk duo Zoffy, Floating Flower, Atsushis’s vintage session with Nepalese folk musician Gopal in 1979, not to mention Makoto’s collaborations with American acts Maquiladora and Fursaxa. It flicks through genres, vibes, styles and continents like a kaleidoscope of sounds. The third disc is a compilation of various experimental projects, all linked by Kawabata Makoto. Here you get him solo, with Uchu, Tsurabami, and even the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. (an expanded version of the instrumental “Third Eye of the Whole World” from “Pataphisical Freak Out MU!!”). This one sold for under a tenner from the record label direct and can still be bought at a reasonably nice price 2nd hand which is bargain for 3 such radically different CDs.
3.Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. “Goodbye John Peel: Live in London 2004” 2005 Dirter Promotions
Gorgeous looking splatter effect double vinyl with retro bootleg label and big breasts on the cover. This captures the bands 2004 gig at 93 Feet East in all its real glory and is particularly notable for featuring a rare live performance of “What’s Your Name?” amongst it's excellent setlist and some flute work from Glyn Collins. All their live albums are recommended but this one is particularly fun and looks great.
4.2006 The Other Side Of The Sky Tour T-Shirt
Might seem an unusual one at first but this is the only gig I’ve put on where there’s been a tour t-shirt with tour dates, which makes it a big deal for me as a promoter. It was also the second ever gig I put on. It was also amazing. It is also a really cool logo. So there you are.
5.Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. ”Never Ending Space Ritual” on Swordfish - 2008
This is a very curious double DVD. Disc 1 is an epic library of live clips (note the word: clips) from every filmed gig by the Melting Paraiso UFO from 1998 to 2007. After that is a collection of clips from the other groups: Acid Mothers Guru Guru, Acid Mothers Gong, Acid Mothers Temple SWR, Acid Mothers Temple & The Incredible Strange Band and, of course, Acid Mothers Temple & The Cosmic Inferno.
Disc 2 contains full performances of “Dark Velvet Blues”, “Dark Stars In The Dazzling Sky”, “Soleil De Cristal Et Lune D’Argent”, “Pink Lady Lemonade” and “La Novia” accompanied with the Occitan queen of song, Rosina De Peira. There’s also a 12-minute edited medley of “Pink Lady Lemondade” from numerous performances. To be honest, I only watched disc 1 once and it is disc 2 that I find myself returning to often because there really are some classic performances on there.
6.Split 7" With White Hills [Sonic Attack (Psychedelic Warlords)] on Trensmat - 2008
Wonderful Irish 7” label Trensmat did a brief series of 3 separate split singles featuring acts covering Hawkwind. On this one, Acid Mothers Temple & The Cosmic Inferno do a version of “Brainstorm”. It’s a very free interpretation, sounding more AMT than it does Hawkwind but the spirit of the original is alive in there. This is also the release that introduced me to White Hills and, boy, do they make a well matched pair with AMT.
7.Acid Mothers Temple & The Cosmic Inferno “Hotter Than Inferno Live In Sapporo” on Vivo 2008
You remember on my last list how I talked about the Cosmic Inferno’s 2nd line-up with Pika on drums being the ultimate line-up? Well, this is that line-up. There is a new double LP on Blackest Rainbow of them in Sheffield but I’ve yet to hear that [note to self on payday] so in the meantime this is my only live disc of them. Contains them blasting off through “Master of the Cosmic Inferno” and then a devastating 45 minute blend of “Pink Lady Lemonade” and “Doobie Wonder Land” which is a actually a cover of what it sounds like. A CD packed full of hoots and good rock n roll.
8.Acid Mothers Temple SWR & Kazutoki Umezu & Seiichi Yamamoto “Stones, Women and Records – Live at Taku Taku 2009” on Acid Mothers Temple 2011
scorched live album that sees the power improv trio augmented by not only by the master sax blaster but also by former Boredoms guitarist Seiichi. Naturally, this fully improvised show will blow your face off and leave a big smouldering jazz crater there. Tight, rowdy and utterly abandoned.
Finally, two absolute rarities
9. the mysterious 1996 tape
Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. put out two limited cassette releases in February 97 that the Norwegian label Synesthetic compiled as a double LP in 2007. There were 50 copies of each but intriguingly, the first 100 copies of Synesthetic’s compilation featured a third LP featuring two songs from an earlier tape released in 96 for a limited edition of 10 copies. The original tape featured three songs but one was omitted from the re-release having been deemed unworthy. I wonder what become of those ten tapes?
10. Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. “Monster of the Universe” on Static Resonance – 2001
Double 7” pack with three out of four of the tracks being exclusive and cover artwork from Pete Fowler. I don’t know how many of these were made but it rarely pops up on ebay and discogs cheapest offer is $50 for a copy with a creased sleeve. Which is a real shame because this little one is as fun as it's cover artwork. Three blazers and then the utter mellow delight of "Midnight Mountain Dew". REPRESS! REPRESS!
LIST 4 – A SECOND OPINION
After all, what do I know? I’m just one person. Here are some other people. I did not ask them to name their favourite AMT-related album of all time, but just to pick a current favourite. If they were about to put an album on now, what would it be:
Jean-Herve Peron of Faust and Arterrorist:
Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. “The Penultimate Galactic Bordello Also The World You Made”
Alan Holmes from Ectogram, Parking Non Stop and much more:
Richard Fontenoy: editor of FREQ Music E-zine, DJ for Kosmische Club and Radio, convener of The Drones Club and also a member of Gran, The Platform Five (5), Drift of Signifieds and Stella Maris Drone Orchestra
"it's one of their most epic records yet in a catalogue bursting full with the damn things"
James T McKay from The Cosmic Dead:
Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O “Myth of the Love Electrique” or Acid Mothers Temple & The Cosmic Inferno “Starless & Bible Black Sabbath”
S.: from The Psychogeographical Commission:
"Gong with a huge set of hairy bollocks"
Johnathan Lees of Hibernate Recordings:
Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. “Absolute Freak Out (Zap Your Mind)
Murray S Ward from Yaje, The Failed Nasa Experiment, Black Stepdad and The Lows & The Highs Recordings:
Andy Smith from Riot Season:
Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. “Absolute Freak Out (Zap Your Mind)”
Ben Chatwin of Talvihorros:
Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. “In C”
Please remember the lists above are NOT exhaustive....not by a long shot! There are so many great releases that I own that aren't on the list: there's Kawabata Makoto's album made with Pika, there's his album with Richard Youngs, his INUI solo series, I've got loads more great albums by The Melting Paraiso U.F.O - can't believe I had to miss out "Electric Heavyland" and "Cometary Orbital Drive" and "Crystal Rainbow Pyramid Under The Stars". There is way more Cosmic Inferno action like "Starless & Bible Black Sabbath" and their "Pink Lady Lemonade (You're From Outter Space)" and much more like the amazing Mainliner. There is also an assload of releases that I don't own and have never even heard. There will be some I have not heard that really should be on the list.
So, here's some tips:
1.If your local record shop stocks albums by them but not the ones listed above, give them a go anyway. The chances are they will be very limited albums and if you hestitate then next week they could be history next week. If you're really in doubt, do a web search for the albums, the internet is full of gobshites like me mouthing off about music. Someone will tell you what it's like. Look at rateyourmusic.com and check out it's score.
2.If you go see them live (and, by God, you should), make sure you budget for their shopzone. There will be loads of albums on sale that you won't find anywhere else and at a cheap price too. Jump in with both feet and take gambles. If you don't like it, you can bet someone will gladly take it off your hand. And your money is going straight to the artists too. Winning.
3.The internet is full of illegal downloads of AMT's music. Sadly, when researching this article, quite often a web search for an album would bring back zip files on the first page of results. Let's make one thing clear: AMT's music may be spacey and psychedelic but it is ROCK and it is ROCK with VERY BIG BALLS. You cannot fit VERY BIG BALLS into a mp3 file because mp3 files are a lossy method of music storage. They compress the data, which is a technical way of saying THEY SHRINK YOUR BALLS.
We have all heard people going on and on about how vinyl sounds better than CD but what really does not get mentioned often enough is that the biggest difference in quality out there is the plummet between mp3 and a CD. CDs can still kick ass but mp3s will lack something you can't quite put your finger on.....they don't have the same UMPH! Even legal downloads of mp3s seem to lack something. There are a few albums I got from legit sources as mp3s that never quite clicked with me as albums but suddenly after picking up a cheap 2nd hand CD, I've suddenly find myself hearing the album in a whole new light. AMT make very organic real music, not computer music so it does not really work in your computer. Sure, there are lossless formats out there like Flac and Wav but they're massive files! So, support your artists and buy the real thing AND DON'T SHRINK YOUR BALLS!
Thanks for reading this far, now go out and enjoy some AMT. I know I will once my toddler has finished watching Pee Wee's Playhouse.